Red States, Blue States…

The battles over abortion are highlighting some previously under-appreciated differences between life in Red and Blue states. Those differences include health outcomes as well as economic circumstances..

As Jennifer Rubin summed it up in the Washington Post, 

 If you live in a red state, your risk of getting and dying from covid-19 is higher than in blue states. On average, your life span is shorter, your chance of living in poverty higher, your educational attainment lower and your economic opportunities are reduced relative to blue-state residents.

There are–as Rubin also acknowledges– policies being pursued in Red states that are increasingly persuading people to decamp and live elsewhere:  If they have a choice, “diverse” workers–LGBTQ+ folks, women and members of minority groups with skills needed by high-tech businesses– frequently choose to live in places they find welcoming, or at least safe. (As we saw when Indiana passed RFRA, unlike Republican politicians, local business enterprises understand that they are significantly disadvantaged in unwelcoming states. Low taxes– accompanied by a corresponding lack of public amenities and a poor or mediocre quality of life–simply aren’t enough to attract either new business or the skilled workforces on which those local enterprises depend.)

Red states like Indiana that have participated in the unremitting right-wing attack on public education tend not to produce the educated workforces that appeal to companies looking to relocate. Those disadvantages have produced the significant differences between Red and Blue state economies. As the Brookings Institution has reported,

To be sure, racial and cultural resentment have been the prime factors of the Trump backlash, but it’s also clear that the two parties speak for and to dramatically different segments of the American economy. Where Republican areas of the country rely on lower-skill, lower-productivity “traditional” industries like manufacturing and resource extraction, Democratic, mostly urban districts contain large concentrations of the nation’s higher-skill, higher-tech professional and digital services.

Many of these differences have been apparent for years–and as the Brookings report noted, they have recently been accelerating.  But that’s not all. As Rubin writes,

And then came the abortion bans. Thousands, if not millions, of women of childbearing age might reconsider their residence if they want to avoid the potentially life-threatening bans — or if they simply want to be treated like competent, autonomous adults.

There are signs the reality of forced-birth laws are registering with those most affected. Reuters reports: “The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide has some students rethinking their higher education plans as states rush to ban or curtail abortion, according to interviews with 20 students and college advisers across the country.” While the evidence is anecdotal at this point, “in the wake of Roe’s overturn, college counselors said abortion has figured prominently in many conversations with clients, with some going as far as nixing their dream schools.”

Lest you be tempted to “pooh pooh” the effect of Dobbs on the college choices of talented young women, I have an example close at hand. My granddaughter–an excellent student–immediately removed Texas’ Rice University–an otherwise highly desirable school– from her list of schools to consider. She’ll attend the University of Chicago, in Illinois, a pro-choice state.

The Times reports that blue-state governors have begun “depicting their abortion rights policies as a business advantage, reinforcing the appeal of the wealthier and more progressive states that many businesses opt to call home in spite of their taxes.

In fact, multiple data points confirm that, among other things, the GOP’s cult ideology decreases life expectancy and keeps many women out of the workplace. It also contributes to the “brain drain” that sends a state’s college graduates to places with more educated populations and a higher quality of life. And if you don’t think any of this really makes a difference in individual life prospects, Brookings will disabuse you of that belief

With their output surging as a result of the big-city tilt of the decade’s “winner-take-most” economy, Democratic districts have seen their median household income soar in a decade—from $54,000 in 2008 to $61,000 in 2018. By contrast, the income level in Republican districts began slightly higher in 2008, but then declined from $55,000 to $53,000.

Underlying these changes have been eye-popping shifts in economic performance. Democratic-voting districts have seen their GDP per seat grow by a third since 2008, from $35.7 billion to $48.5 billion a seat, whereas Republican districts saw their output slightly decline from $33.2 billion to $32.6 billion.

Retrograde public policies have real-world consequences. And those consequences are substantial. Indiana has long suffered the economic and health results of an unhinged and provincial legislature, but it’s about to get much, much worse.


  1. YES – I suspect the young smart folks will vote with their feet…even more than they already were doing.

  2. I know two college aged nieces that were offered a “full ride” scholarship to a Texas university and I forcefully poo poo’d the idea. They both were offered full scholarships to schools in their home state of CA so chose to stay there. They are Asian Americans and have long black hair and brown skin which to me means they would experience racism they would not see in CA. Those ladies are our future and I don’t trust anything in Texas, especially the people. Poor schools, mass shootings, power grid failures and hurricanes to boot. Just say no to Texas.

  3. To add another “possible” horror story to Indiana, my niece is almost 40 and Does Not Want Children. She and her partner have used birth control since they’ve been together. She is one that has never voted so last week, I sent her a message hoping that she registers to vote (finally) because she’d have to leave the state to get an abortion now. That is plain cruel to child bearing women all over the world.

  4. Today’s Kennedy post is a masterpiece of well researched truth. The republican party ahs become a party of sloth coupled with no creativity and response to needs of the country.

  5. I miss my Indiana friends;, but I do not miss Indiana’s Republican-controlled politics.

  6. It will be interesting to see if the extremist-republican GQP trustees of Indiana and Purdue Universities can stand to watch the ratio of applications to admits plummet in their elite land grant universities, requiring them to choose some Freshmen from among something less than the cream of the cream of the crop. IU and especially its Medical School was ominously silent throughout the first week of the special session of the Indiana General Assembly (several faculty spoke out on their own).

    I expect Notre Dame to NOT have the same experience and possibly even benefit from Dobbs. Any potential applicants bothered by Indiana’s anti-pregnant-persons (APP) laws would have already made their minds up based on the Roman Catholic church’s positions and the fact that one of the aye-votes to overturn Roe was a UND law school faculty member.

    The rest of our post-secondary schools? Likely negligible impact because attending a school out of state is generally a LOT more expensive than instate. And while Indiana has reciprocal agreements with some out of state universities to charge instate tuition to Hoosier students, most if not all of them are in OH, where the AAP laws are just as stringent. These schools are already struggling with a mind-boggling drop in the number of high-school males pursuing post-secondary ed (46% vs 61% females). This is likely do to a combination of a tight labor market and MAGA-fascist propaganda about what’s taught in our universities.

    Dr. Mike Hicks of Ball State (Todd’s favorite economist LOL) wrote a pretty decent piece on effect of extreme AAP laws on future economic growth. Essentially it will be impossible to sort out the effects of the laws from all the other awful reasons red states economies lag behind blue states. But they sure won’t help. All 26 of them cannot become Gilead from The Handmaid’s tale….but perhaps a few can.

    And if Indiana is one of them, I will spend the last years of my life living in Michigan or Illinois.

    ps: I enjoyed the earlier essay on Christian Nationalism, but generally avoid using the term because:
    1. there are still many fine Christians who are not aligned with a right-wing racist and nationalistic agenda (speak with any Mennonite) and

    2. adherents of Christian Nationalism aren’t REAL Christians just because they SAY they are and don’t deserve the benefit of being described with that label.

    MAGA-Fascist is my preferred term. And the former guy and his movement even reminds us of Benito Mussolini if you read much about him and his ascendancy in the aftermath of WWI.

  7. While everyone attacked me for pointing out the obvious yesterday, and Destiny Wells joined us to gain fundraising checks, ask Destiny to tell us what she is doing to turn Indiana around from being a red bonus bottom feeder state. You know, like getting rid of out-of-state donations. Eliminating corporate donations. Does she endorse a free press? If so, will she demand that Joe Biden immediately release Julian Assange and also stop the federal attack against journalist’s whistleblowers?

    If you haven’t noticed, Senator Todd Young (Indiana GOP) supports giving semiconductors cash subsidies in Indiana so they can compete with labor in Taiwan. Indiana and the South has real low wages but not low enough for chip makers.

    What is Destiny going to do for workers wanting to unionize in this state?

  8. By the way, Hick’s doesn’t write anything without an agenda because he is endorsed by the regional oligarchs who brought patriarchal white supremacy – even systemized racial discrimination in our residential policies and banking practices.

    Why would any academic sell off his good name to systemic racists? But shills will do anything for money…they even accepted Papa John Schnatter’s monies until it was so bad for a business that even Shaq could clean up their image. 😉 Although Shaq tried to help.

    Money cleanses the soul…

  9. I saw the email notification for The Third Party post… Where did that disappear to?

    Here’s an intelligent discussion of the oppression of the two-party system and why the New Third Party has jumped to the biggest third party in just nine months. Because it is working for the average American’s common sense agenda.

  10. One result of this trend, which makes complete sense to me, is that the country will become even more starkly divided.
    The virtual Luddite states will birth and train more and more of the “stay at home” folks in Luddite values, while those who
    do not wish to live, or have their children live there, will relocate. Yes, I’m being judgemental, but it seems to me that we will
    see Dumb become Dumber, while the opposite will happen in the blue states. It could parallel evolutionary speciation. And
    communication between the two would, then, become even more difficult than it is now. Not a pretty fantasy.

    Neighboring (red) Kentucky is suffering from massive floods, will Ayn Rand’s namesake, imbecile, senator accept
    climate reality. or will he continue to insist on lowering educational standards, even doing away with the federal Dep’t of Ed?
    Aging girl, I believe you gave your nieces some excellent advise.

  11. Mitch….it makes me sad for young people with great potential but with the terrible luck to be born in those States.

  12. One thing that I find interesting is the rise of J.D. Vance in Ohio. If you have read “Hillbilly Elegy” you know that he clearly thinks the people he wants to represent are lazy and stupid. If he is elected, he will have been proven right.

  13. The Red States are achieving their political goals which include limiting population growth in order to maintain a white male heterosexual Christian majority isolated from the world and the States formerly United.

  14. @Patrick, just to clear up any possible misconceptions: IU Health (which has a partnership with IU School of Medicine, but is not owned by IU) has been sharing medical expertise with legislators to educate them on circumstances where it is necessary to terminate a woman’s pregnancy to save her life or avoid serious long-term damage to her health. They have also been advocating against this legislation, in part because it could have a serious impact on the education and recruitment of obstetricians, gynecologists and other physicians to Indiana, a state which already faces shortages in both specialties; medical residents could be forced to go out of state to learn, at the expense of time and financial resources. Or they could choose another state in which to practice medicine.
    As the legislation changes, they will continue to advocate for women’s health and evidence-based approaches that allow medical professionals to do what’s best for the health of Hoosiers.

  15. Shelia Kennedy, thanks for your excellent post of a “jaundiced look at the world (most definitely the U.S.A.) we live in”. You weave several wisdom observations including your own, some I’ve been contemplating for some time, but have not weaved a convincing cogent apologia for one of the primary reasons our culture and society is becoming more and more an “either – or” Red or Blue nation, with fewer & fewer Purple/Violet States in a less & less *United* States. The current trajectory is not an appealing prospect for our progeny.

  16. RR, I find this place to be an endlessly fascinating classroom for many aspects of life represented by many diverse perspectives and personalities.

    I can’t tell you how much I have learned here and occasionally contributed of my experience.

    It’s become support for my faith in diversity and the growing need for expansive awareness to complement our ever narrowing specialized learning.

  17. Great comments today. All this evidence begs the question: Why does corporate/banking America still fund Republicanism? Oh. Right. Red states also eschew unions and advocate for low minimum wages. So, in spite of corporate America sending millions of labor jobs to Asia and Mexico, in spite of them bribing enough Republicans to allow them to send their profits to foreign banks controlled by despots and in spite of the damage being done to the red state population at large, Jackassville still votes for Republicans. This is political Darwinism in its most deliciously ironic form.

  18. Hoosier ex-pats are advised to seek out “high tax” states in which to land since the old adage of “You get what you pay for” is generally accurate. Anecdotal example > I visited a very rich lawyer in Stockholm in 1975 who lived in a downtown condo full of jade and paintings who (along with his wife) jetted to their condo in the Swiss Alps for weekend skiing and their condo on Majorca in the Mediterranean for fun in the sun – and this when Swedish income taxes consumed some fifty percent of one’s gross income. I thought to play anti-tax Republican and (in the midst of such pelf) asked him if Swedish income taxes were some fifty percent and he answered in the affirmative, upon which I said “That’s a little high, isn’t it,” and I will never forget his answer, which was “Well, Jerry, that depends on what you get for your money.” He then set forth a long litany of what Swedes then “got for their money,” after which I concluded that by such measure our taxes are higher than theirs (especially with corporate and other such taxpayers’ exemptions from liability in sharing the tax load with the rest of us – see Boeing, Musk, Bezos, phony 501 Cs et al.).

    The rich and corporate class and their WSJ and Fox propaganda arms have successfully poisoned the tax atmosphere in the USA with their “government is bad” with its taxing authority and other attempts to regulate Wall Street and other lily white capitalistic ventures amid a daily barrage of socialism is bad invective, and yet the Swedish admixture of socialism and capitalism of 1975 yielded a thriving economy, an excellent wage structure, a positive foreign trade surplus etc., so we may ask what or who is “bad” for the some 330 million Americans who must shoulder a disproportionate share of the tax load in order to keep shareholder returns and executive compensation up to snuff.

    The fundamental problem is that we (unlike in the days of FDR) have been conditioned to distrust what government will do with our tax money if we add a bit more socialism to the capitalist/socialism admixture, and perhaps rightly so given the likes of a Trump who added a 1.9 trillion dollar tax gift to the capitalist component of the admixture via an irresponsible lame duck law in December, 2017, just days before the Democratic takeover of the House.

    To Hoosier students and prospective ex-pats: Check out some high-tax jurisdictions in which to further your education and/or residence like California or New York, because you get what you pay for.

  19. Tape #23 replay – Root cause: failure to educate – critical thinking, civic literacy, financial literacy, media literacy. And red states get an “A” in all….

  20. Let this sink in. The data comes from several federal state and local agencies as compiled through Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post:
    “If you live in a red state, your risk of getting and dying from covid-19 is higher than in blue states. On average, your life span is shorter, your chance of living in poverty higher, your educational attainment lower and your economic opportunities are reduced relative to blue-state residents.”
    Self interest and the idea that being healthier and wealthier is a common good. Wake up and grow up. I am proud to be smart, educated and capable of clear communication. If I lived in a red state would I even know the water was boiling and I am about to die? Doubtful. The answer is not to finger point but to help bring positive solutions to places that need help. Yes it is my interpretation of what that help looks like. Good education, good healthcare, honest politicians. The latter is problematic is you have a dumbass running the show.
    Pass it on.

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